In case you didn’t know, I’m a huge fan of The X-Files. I own the DVD’s, the movies, the books (that's right, books!), I have posters, t-shirts and once I went to an UFO convention even though I don’t believe in any of that. I also have a book blog (I hope you did know that!). Yep, I’m pretty much a nerd. So when I saw this book and read that the heroine was a fan of The X-Files I left everything I was doing in order to read it. It was entertaining, but it had some shortcomings.
Philomena Desdemona Brown, Fil for short, is a nerd. She has blue hair, is a fan of every Sci-Fi show out there and loves comic books. She loves them so much that she works for one, yes, Fil is the current illustrator of the famous comic Girl from Mars, a story that’s been in print for over fifty years. She is very talented but she is socially award, and she is perfectly fine with it, or so she says.
Her best –and only- friends are Stevo, Digger and Jim. They have a relationship that’s both close and closed. They are tight and supportive of each other, never judging and sharing common likes and dislikes, but they also enable their own isolation by maintaining a strict routine and avoiding change. One day Stevo commits the ultimate crime: falling in love with an outsider. Fil, Jim and Digger are shocked at first and soon become angry when they realize that Stevo prefers to spend time with his boyfriend than with them. So what’s left of the group decides to make an oath, they will forever remain single, no dates, no boyfriends, no girlfriends, no going to clubs, nothing! Now, in real life fate would say something like this: “Oh really? Is that what you want? Well, you got it bitch! You’ll be single forever and ever. Here’s a cat to start your collection” But in romance novels after you do something like that you immediately meet the love of your life, which is exactly what happens to Fil.
When Fil meets Dan she is surprised that a guy like him (handsome, charming and wearing a suit) is showing interest in her. First she thinks he’s interested because he’s American, it’s his first time in London, and is desperate for a friend, but when he asks her out she freaks out. She’s attracted to him but she can’t break the oath, so she runs away. But it turns out that Girl from Mars isn’t selling well and the company is bringing a screenwriter specialized in romantic comedies to help the story, and of course that writer is Dan. Now she has to work with him while battling the attraction and trying to regain the normalcy in her life. And of course, every romance fan knows that that battle was lost even before it started.
I liked the premise of the book, nerdy girl meets hot boy and falls in love. Not the most original but I’ll take it since I love heroines that are less than perfect. But Fil wasn’t just less than perfect because she had blue hair and was socially awkward, she was less than perfect because she was reluctant to change and grow as a person. I had the impression that her “nerdiness” was more of a façade and a defense mechanism than an actual choice. The relationship she had with her friends was good because it allowed them to be free but it was hurting them, because they were too dependent on it. So when one part of their group decided to change and move on, the whole system became unbalanced. I liked Fil but she got on my nerves a lot because when she refuses to talk to her friends and accept that they were being unreasonable, she became even more unreasonable and childish which ended up hurting everyone.
Dan, on the other hand, I loved. We don’t get his POV during the book, but he was open and honest so it’s pretty easy to see where he’s coming from. I admit that for once I would love to see a less than perfect hero, just as much as I love seeing less than perfect heroines, but he wasn’t the jock who always gets the girl at the end of the
movie book. He had depth and felt mature and fresh, a good balance to Fil’s childish ways.
Their relationship was sweet, but I was exasperated by Fil’s constant backpedaling. She kept going back and forth, back and forth; today she wanted to be with Dan, tomorrow she didn’t want to betray his friends. She wasn’t a teenager, but she acted like one.
The secondary characters play an important role in the book, Jim in particular. He has been Fil’s best friend since they were kids and even though I liked him, their relationship was too codependent to be attractive to me as a reader. Someone was going to end up hurt there, and that’s exactly what happened. This is slightly spoilerish so I’ll hide it, but I think you can see it coming from page one: (Spoiler) Jim has been in love with her his whole life, he is so possessive of her that everyone around them knows what’s going on, everyone but Fil, or so it seems. The fact is that she knows it deep inside and just ignores it, and that was part of the reasons she got on my nerves. (End of Spoiler)
There are lots of interesting details about comic books that I found fascinating, although I’ve never been a fan of the genre. There’s also the story of Girl from Mars of which we get to see snippets throughout the book, and I admit that the ending of that story touched me more than the ending of the actual book.
It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book, but I did. I was absorbed by the story and couldn’t stop until I got to the end. I had a strong reaction to the heroine that was mainly negative but I didn’t dislike her, she was exasperating but I was able to understand her reasons to be that way and I think that by the end of the book she was at a better place -with a lot of work to do-.
I think fans of contemporary romance tired of the same old formula would enjoy this book for its unique heroine and sweet hero.
Review by Brie
"I, Philomena Desdemona Brown, do solemnly swear to forsake all romantic relationships . . ." It's not like the vow, made by Fil and her three nerdy male best friends, seemed much of a big deal at the time. Frankly, Fil wouldn't know romance if it hit her in the face, and with her real love being her artist job at Girl from Mars, the comic whose heroine has never had a love interest, she doesn't exactly mind being relationship-free anyway. Until her world is rocked to its core when one of her long-standing quartet and Girl from Mars herself both unexpectedly fall in love. Is it time to give in to temptation and finally fall in love?
Girl From Mars by Julie Cohen
Headline Book Publishing. April 1, 2011.